Emotions ran hot during Wednesday’s Battle of the Palouse game between Idaho and the Washington State men’s basketball team.
Sharpshooting from the Cougars made the difference in the 272nd rivalry game, as Idaho’s shooting skills dropped cold.
The Vandals (4-4) fell 61-48 at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman.
“They came out with a lot of energy, I thought we did too though,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said. “They played well from the opening tip and we could never get close to them.”
Senior guard Perrion Callandret missed his sixth consecutive game with a bone bruise in his right knee. Washington State center Conor Clifford’s strong presence in the paint brought the Cougars (5-4) to an early 21-5 lead. Clifford used his 7-foot frame to box out defenders and score eight points in the first half.
Idaho struggled from the field, shooting 2-of-18 in the first the period. Junior guard Victor Sanders connected on a pair of deep 3-pointers to help the Vandals claw back into contention.
The Coguars led 36-25 at the break.
“We just missed a bunch of shots,” Verlin said. “Their defense and their size really bothered us around the basket.”
Clifford and senior forward Josh Hawkinson combined for 17 points and eight rebounds for the Cougars in the first half. Sanders led Idaho with six points and two rebounds.
“I noticed a lot of energy from within our teammates, and we also had a good showing from the crowd tonight,” Hawkinson said. “A lot of WSU fans came out and Idaho fans came across the border. It was a fun atmosphere, and it was fun to see a lot of fans supporting us.”
The Vandals used a half-court press to slow the quick Cougar offense in the opening minutes of the second period.
Cougar guard Ike Iroegbu regained momentum as he drilled a shot and extended Washington State’s lead 42-28.
“You never know which player is going to step up for us and lead us in scoring,” Hawkinson said. “I think that’s what’s going to make us a threat to other teams.”
Sanders provided a spark for Idaho by scoring 12 of his 18 points in the second half, but the effort wasn’t enough.
Washington State pulled away for the 61-48 victory.“It seems like when the emotion is there and their spirit is tapped into, they play at a different level,” Washington State head coach Ernie Kent said.
“It seems like when the emotion is there and their spirit is tapped into, they play at a different level,” Washington State head coach Ernie Kent said.
Iroegbu finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. Hawkinson tallied a double-double with 11 points and 11 assists.
Kent joined Verlin on the Idaho bench for the opening tipoff as part of a Coaches vs. Cancer auction package purchased in September.
“(Cancer) has been beaten all over the country by some wonderful individuals, but there’s still help that needs to be done, and that was the purpose of the moment of sitting on that bench,” Kent said. “Nothing more than that. Not about me, not about Coach (Verlin). It was about cancer and bringing the recognition to it, and we had an opportunity to do it.”
The Vandals return to the court for a road meeting with South Dakota State 5 p.m. Saturday in Brookings.
Josh Grissom can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @GoshJrissom